Avalanche warning

A yellow and black avalanche risk warning flag, flying in the mountains.

With eight avalanche-related deaths so far this winter season, including three in a single incident near Silverton on Feb. 1, Colorado may be on pace for one of its deadliest avalanche seasons in recent memory. And, the startling number of avalanche deaths is not limited to just Colorado. As of this writing, 17 people have been killed in avalanches nationwide since the beginning of the year, 22 since the start of this winter season. 

To put Colorado's numbers for this year into perspective, there has been a yearly average of approximately five avalanche deaths since the 1996-1997 winter season, according to data on the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) website. Colorado has had eight fatalities for an entire season only 3 times since the 96-97 season, and has only exceeded that number twice: 11 in the 2012-2013 season, and nine in the 1999-2000 season.

According to the CAIC, one out of four people who die in an avalanche are killed by striking something, such as trees, boulders or other objects and the rest die from asphyxia when buried under the weight of the snow, which sets like concrete when everything stops moving. An examination of avalanche data at the CAIC shows that avalanches are caused by all manner of recreationists: downhill and cross-country skiers, snowmobilers, hikers, snowboarders and snowshoers have all been caught by avalanches. Since nine out of 10 fatal avalanches are triggered by the victim, or someone in their party, the CAIC says the chances of being caught in an avalanche can be reduced by educating back-country enthusiasts.

The CAIC's "Know Before You Go" educational campaign stresses having the right equipment, being properly trained, getting avalanche forecasts before going out, being observant of conditions ("getting the picture"), and most importantly, "getting out of harm's way". Discretion being the better part of valor, sometimes it's wiser to just not go into the backcountry, instead of putting lives at risk.

Avalanche training is available from the CAIC and the Colorado Mountain Club.

El Paso County Commissioners are currently seeking a citizen to represent District 1 (the northern portion of El Paso County) on its Parks Advisory Board.

The Parks Advisory Board reviews and comments on items and proposals related to park policies, philosophies and objectives, and makes formal recommendations to the Board of County Commissioners.

The board meets on the second Wednesday of the month at 1:30 p.m. in Centennial Hall in downtown Colorado Springs. Applications for the open position are due by March 8, 2021.  

The volunteer application can be accessed at bocc.elpasoco.com/volunteer.


Be Good. Do Good Things. Be Safe.

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